Steelers Need a GM

The Pittsburgh Steelers stumbled to a 6-10 record this season and have missed the playoffs four times out of last six seasons. I don't buy the notion that the Steelers just need a little tweaking here and there to become a Super Bowl contender, let alone a playoff team. In my mind the so-called window of opportunity has closed.

The needs are many for the Steelers. They need help at outside linebacker, cornerback, offensive tackle and running back. You might be able to plug those holes with a couple of free agents and some draft picks, but that is a real tough chore considering their recent draft history and lack of the salary-cap money to go after top free agents.

Tough choices need to be made concerning several veteran players. Players who have to be jettisoned include Jason Gildon, Mark Bruener, one or both cornerbacks, Brent Alexander, Oliver Ross and the assorted backups who got the chance to perform and failed.

A tougher choice concerns the front office. Since Bill Cowher won his power struggle with Tom Donahoe after the 1999 season Pittsburgh is 40-27 and has made the playoffs twice and missed the playoffs twice. Acceptable you say - not if you are the Rooneys and you began the season with the NFL's second-highest payroll.

According to figures compiled by the National Football League Players Association, the Steelers' $85,069,621 payroll trailed only the New York Jets' $87,343,231.

The Rooneys are loath to admit a mistake, but they may have backed the wrong horse in the Cowher-Donahoe power struggle.

Kevin Colbert has the title of Director of Football Operations, but it is assumed his powers are limited; Cowher is the de facto general manager since the departure of Donahoe, and he has failed in the player personnel area.

The Steelers have made bad choices for who they've doled out lucrative and lengthy contracts to.

So the time has come to make a move.

Dan Rooney should bring in a full-time general manager to oversee football operations. That person should have the final say in personnel decisions. Cowher of course would resist this, but it has occurred elsewhere in the league.

The Miami Dolphins have stripped Dave Wannstedt of his GM duties and are in the process of hiring a new general manager.

The Seattle Seahawks started winning only when they hired Bob Ferguson to be GM, thus making Mike Holmgren the head coach and nothing else.

In very few instances has the head coach also been able to handle the duties of general manager.

As much as I like Kevin Colbert as a person, he wouldn't be a good choice. He has been subservient to Cowher for too long.

The ideal man is a former member of the organization.

I don't know whether he would return or not, but Buffalo assistant general manager Tom Modrak would be a great choice. Modrak is one of the sharpest personnel men in the NFL. Modrak recently resisted a move to Miami because he viewed it as a lateral move. The Miami job had him in charge of player personnel only. The Steelers would have to up the ante by making their job include all football operations -- such as the ability to hire and fire the coach.

The Steelers have to bite the bullet and strip Cowher of his final say in personnel matters or else the string of non-playoff seasons is likely to continue.

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